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The Cancer That Is Not a Cancer

So…a couple, three months ago, I trot out to the beloved dermatologist — halfway to Yuma — for a regular check-up. When you’ve lived as long as I have in the desert subtropics, you have a continually budding crop of cancerous and precancerous growths on your hide. So what you want to do is get every new excrescence excised before it does develop into skin cancer. She goes checkity-check-check-check and then she sees a little mole on the side of my nose. It’s about a 16th of an inch in diameter, something I never noticed because I’m covered with spots, rather like a two-legged leopard.

She says oooohhhh that’s suspicious! We’d better biopsy that.

Okay. Nothin’ new there.

Time passes: a week or so. They call and tell me it was a melanoma, and now I must come in and get it and a chunk of my face removed.

So I arrange to traipse across the Valley and have a plastic surgeon slice up my nose and then repair the damage. She does an awesome job — truly amazing. Friends who have had this kind of surgery have ended up with their faces…well, shall we say, defaced. I expected to come away with some baby-scaring scars, at the least. But hallelujah, brothers and sisters! When the incision heals up, after some weeks, it heals with NO scars.

Seriously: you would never know that my face had been laid open from the top right side of the nose to the bottom left side. I’m told it was a good thing I came in, because the thing was a malignant melanoma.

As a side-show to the hypochondriac’s jamboree, whilst searching the Hypochondriac’s Treasure Chest That Is The Internet for something, anything that might relieve the crazy-making peripheral neuropathy, I discover that PN can be caused by the presence of a malignancy. Like, for example, a melanoma.

It all begins to make sense, right?

Time passes.

And now it’s time to re-up my Medigap insurance. I call my agent. She asks me the usual litany of nosey questions, one of which is “have you had a cancer diagnosed in the past year?”

Well, yeah: a malignant melanoma falls into that category.

The upshot is that, even though insurance companies are not legally allowed to deny Medigap coverage, what they can do is charge you piratical rates, at the drop of any hat that comes along.

I end up with a bill of something over $3750 for one (count it, 1) year of supplementary coverage!!!!!!!

You can’t do without this, BTW. Because “supplementary” is not exactly le mot juste. If you don’t have it, you will be gouged THOUSANDS of dollars for medical bills that regular Medicare doesn’t cover. Many thousands of dollars.

Okay, so…there’s the backstory.

Yesterday, I go to call the dermatologist’s office, having realized that I forgot to ask them to forward a report of their activities to MayoDoc. When I ask them to send their records about the malignant melanoma they removed a month or so ago, the clerk there says, “Oh, that wasn’t a melanoma.”

Say what?

“Uhm…they told me it was…”

Are you kidding? you put me through all that sh!t for a tiny black spot on the side of my nose, totally benign, one that if I thought it would make me feel too ugly to go to the ball, I could cover with a dab of make-up????

It’s a 40-minute drive each way, plus the fun and games of injecting anaesthesia and laying on a table stock-still for 30 minutes while they hack the thing off  my face and glue and sew me up plus three weeks of healing time plus having to keep applying topical medications…but that ain’t the half of it!

No, indeed.

Now, we’ve fucked up my insurance record! Because when I went to renew my Medigap policy a day or two ago, the broker asked me if I’d ever had cancer, and of course I had to say “yes, a melanoma.”  If it was really nothing, then chances are my Medigap insurance won’t cover it — because removing it would be deemed “cosmetic.” But that is as naught compared to the amount I will have to pay, going forward, for Medigap coverage. The $3,700+ I sent to the insurance company the other day was, no doubt, just a starter.

Reached the broker as dawn cracked this morning. — she said she hadn’t sent any applications in. Looks like we’ll recover this time.

But what happens next time?

6 thoughts on “The Cancer That Is Not a Cancer”

  1. That’s confusing. Why would they say it’s a melanoma if it wasn’t? Was it just an opinion given before the actual biopsy results?
    And about your Medigap increase, can you get the mistaken diagnosis removed so the premium can be adjusted and the excess refunded to you?

    • I have no clue why on earth they told me that, but they certainly did. Maybe the person I called on the phone to ask about it made a mistake? WhatEVER, it sure didn’t do me any good.

      It looks like we probably will escape a vast Medigap increase, because — mercifully — my agent had not yet sent in our application! I called her late in the afternoon, thinking “surely she’s gone home by now!” But lo! she picked up the phone! When I told her we had a change of opinion about the nature of the mole, she said she hadn’t shot off the application, and she would change it accordingly.

      Whew! Close call, eh?

  2. As a newby to medicare, I have an advantage plan, zero premimum but a bit higher copays. I get annual skin checks due to past melanoma. Are you saying that if something pops up again, they can increase my rate? Or, is this only for non-advantage plans?

    • I dunno. That’s something your agent needs to answer — or if you’re buying the plan yourself without a go-between, someone at the insurance company can tell you. The way I understand it — and bear in mind: i are a english major i are not a insurance agent!! — every time you re-up (which is annually for me), they ask you a series of questions, one of which is “have you been diagnosed with a cancer over the past year,” Well, yeah: a melanoma is a cancer. Does that mean that in your particular plan, ipso facto they’ll increase the rate? I don’t know.

      The bureaucratic maze is wayyy outside my skill level, which is why I hire someone to navigate the stuff for me. But based on this site — — I think mine may be an Advantage plan. All I know is it’s not an HMO (never, EVER again!!!!!!), not a a PPO, not a PFFS (I’m not limited in my choice of doctors)….I think of it as akin to regular health insurance that covers whatever ails you, no matter who treats you as long as the “who” is a licensed, qualified medical provider.

      Medicare is a godsend…but nevertheless it’s unclear to me why it has to be such a complicated bureaucratic mess!

      • You had cancer, then you DID NOT have cancer?!?!? Damn! I’m very glad you caught your insurance agent before she submitted the application.
        Okay, now I’m wondering if you should have gotten a second opinion on that spot. At least you don’t have a scar.

  3. That was interesting about the Medicare Advantage plans. I didn’t know there were so many variants of Advantage plans.
    My husband and I have had Kaiser since 1972. So when he retired we had no desire to get new doctors and signed up for Kaiser’s Senior Advantage plan. We have always had good, caring doctors. Sometimes they have called to tell results personally or to ask how recovery was going.

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